Ed's Misadventures in Computing

So here's what I've been through for the last few days. Two trips to Lansing (an hour away), one in a driving rainstorm and the second in a driving snowstorm. Yes, it's Michigan and we're getting snow in October. On the first trip, I bought a brand new case, motherboard and processor. I brought it home, built it, and the dang thing was dead as a doornail, would not power up. I change out three different power supplies, one of which came out of a working computer, so I know it's not that. So today, I took the whole thing back, the tech plays around with it for a bit and announces what I already knew - the new motherboard was a dud. And they have no comparable replacement, so I just ask for my money back.

I kept the case, figuring I was just going to buy a new motherboard and processor and build another one. Then I remembered that there's a little computer place in the same mall, so I stop in there. The guy says he'll build me a barebones system for $299 and he'll put all my peripherals in it for me (I had them with me), but it would include his own case. So I go back to Comp USA and return the case as well. They built me the new system, which I brought home and had trouble getting all the drivers for the motherboard to install correctly (I'm using the hard drive from my old system).

So I call back down there and the tech walks me through getting everything installed (almost everything - I still don't have sound). But then my computer won't hook up to the internet. Everything is installed correctly, but it's not getting anything. So I call Charter and I get put through 20 minutes of automated instruction on things to do - things I'd already done because I'm not an idiot (recycle the cable modem, reboot the computer, etc). The automated voice finally realizes what I've known all along - the automated system isn't gonna do anything but piss me off and delay me speaking to a tech.

Finally, I get through to a tech, an Indian lady I can barely understand. She puts me on hold, then comes back and says, "I'm putting you through to the billing department" - and before I can tell her not to transfer the call, she's gone. And I'm on hold for another ten minutes, seriously pissed off by now because I'm not behind on my bill and I know that there is absolutely no reason for this transfer. By that time, I've got a head of steam built up and was prepared to eviscerate the person from billing who is unlucky enough to pick up the phone. Except no one does. Next thing I hear is, "Your call could not be completed as dialed. Please try your call again."

At that point, my blood pressure was probably 500 over 400. I redial the 800 number, go through all the prompts to get me to tech support, and prepared to find a clock tower with a high powered rifle if that fucking automated voice comes back on and wants to spend another 20 minutes wasting my time. Thankfully, some sane person programmed memory into their system and the automated voice says, "I see you've recently called about technical trouble. Are you calling about the same problem?" I said yes, and it routed me directly to the actual human tech support queue; I've no doubt that someone's life was saved as a result.

So a couple minutes later, a real person (Ronald) comes on the phone. I told him what I had just been through and that I would try not to take it out on him, which he seemed thankful for. And he was actually helpful. It took a half hour, but we finally did get it working and now, obviously, I'm able to connect to the internet. So after all of this frustration, I finally have a shiny new computer system (Athlon 64 3400) with the same hard drive, so I lose nothing of importance and don't have to worry about remembering passwords and things like that (Yay). And I'm back online and can become productive again. And if I ever go through this again....well, someone's probably gonna die. So...did you guys miss me?


More like this

Back when we bought the house, Kate's parents were having miserable problems with their cable Internet service-- at peak times, the real bit rate went down so far that it was impossible to get anywhere-- so we opted for DSL service. Five years later, we still have DSL, and even the same modem. When…
Up to this morning, I really thought I'd be able to get some real work done on this blog over the next couple of weeks. We're moving out of the hotel and into the apartment tomorrow (finally), and I had planned to catch up on a lot of the housekeeping around here once I have regular access to…
Almost every resource on the Internet on building your own computer is oriented towards building a gaming computer. The second most common discussion is how to build a "budget PC." When I sought out the latest information on building a computer a few weeks ago, I did not like either of these two…
You may have noticed my lack of presence on my own blog today. That's because I'm having endless difficulty getting a new computer to run. I've built a new computer, but it won't power up. So far I've tried 3 different power supplies, pulled every single peripheral out of it, found out I had a bad…

I feel your pain, Ed. I used to work at Dell in technical support (before they shipped most of the jobs to India) and some of the hold times were downright insane. One guy was on hold for upwards of two hours. What shocked me is how polite most people were -- I'd be fit to bit the head off a duck, but mostly folks just got down to business.

One odd thing I noticed was that quite a few people would be very polite to me, only to yell the most horrible things to their family standing by. Weird.

Anyway, glad you're back online.

Why would you do this to yourself?

I'm an electrical engineer who has actually designed computers in the past. But I would never buy components and try to assemble them.

Life is too short.

I used to work an internet help desk, and, believe me, the system pisses everyone off, especially the poor techs who have to hear your (well-deserved) anger at the start of every call. I never objected to customers cussing me out; it wasn't personal, and, frankly, we deserved it (in the institutional sense). Most customers eventually figured out that we're all in it together, and we could get the problem solved. Then the job got sent to India.

I have heard a great deal about how well educated and trained the TS staffs in India are, but real-life experience is that maybe 1/3 of them know anything about the problem they are supposed to solve: They just follow a decision tree. If they can't follow the tree (or if neither side can understand the other) you get one of the mystery transfers that you experienced.

I know you don't cover much in the way of economic policy here, Ed, but outsourcing is a huge problem these days, as well as being incredibly short-sighted as far as policy goes. We are moving hundreds of thousands of skilled (and decent-paying) jobs overseas, and all we get in return is bad TS. Thanks for the rant.

It's too bad you don't have a nearby Fry's Electronics, which is wonderful for computing emergencies (though they don't always have the best prices--building a new system I've found it better to purchase parts online).

HAHAHAHA... You bought stuf from CompUSEless! HAHAHA!!!


I wish I could I could have lent you my son. From the time he was ten and repaired the neighbor's non-working computer by using his toy wood-burning kit, his systems always seem to work fine. At one point, when he was using a very small cubicle, he saved space by not getting a case at all; he just duct-taped the various pieces of the system aound the wall, stringing the connecting wires and cables over his head. That one worked fine, too.

Now order a nice high-end power supply from PC Power and Cooling. The ones that come in most new cases are garbage.

Just a suggestion but it has worked well for me over the years.

Us Mac users are snickering in the background. Glad you're back up and running, Ed. I did miss you.

Whenever I read things like this -- or hear my IT co-workers telling similar stories, it's hard to refrain from saying "What is your time worth?"

I bought a G5 (Mac) about two years ago. The one and only problem I've had with it had to do with a program written by Microsoft (Virtual PC).

I'm not kidding--the Mac has run flawlessly for almost two years. If there is any way you can swing it, get a Mac.

By David C. Brayton (not verified) on 12 Oct 2006 #permalink

Snicker. = )

I have to weigh in on the Mac observation. Whenever I hear Windows users complain, my response is "What did you expect?"

I don't believe in Intelligent Design, but the Mac is the closest proof I've seen.

Software or hardware problem?

If it's a software problem, you could start by putting your critical files on a seperate hard disk and format c:/ Lots of crap builds up on your hdd over time, and that'll slow your computer down. If you're not using some kind of harddisk cleaning software, the recommendations I've heard call for nuking the hdd every two or three months, although personally I don't bother doing it quite that often.

- JS

The answer to your problem is very simple, although it will cost more then putting together your own system. Get a MAC!

my sympathies; in the last 3 weeks I built one using an Athlon 4300 dual processor.
It sure ages a body!
Just incase you do not know of it and now that you are back online, go to : http://www.gethuman.com/.
Get the 'cheats' to fool the IVR of your ISP/bank/carloan company/IRS etc and keep them on paper.
I think it saved me a stroke more than once.

Another thing to consider, Ed, is that you could always buy a hard drive enclosure. You could then use your current HD (with all that data) as a second hard drive, but still have the convenience of a prebuilt machine.

And because we fan-persons are on a roll:
I, too, will be getting a Mac for my next computer. I had a powerbook for law school and loved it, and now that it has dual WinXP/OS-X capabilities, I'm getting the best of both worlds. The one I have my eye on is the 24" widescreen iMac. In particular, I'm drawn to the idea that I can remove the base, mount the whole damn thing on the wall, and (because of bluetooth and wifi) only have the power cord to have to deal with.

By Michael LoPrete (not verified) on 13 Oct 2006 #permalink

My opinion, based on (luckily) far more minor stuff, is that it rarely pays to build your own system, unless you're both very good, and think of it as fun. If it's a task that you're doing to save money, you're probably in for pain. When dealing with really, really major upgrades on your level, it might make sense to buy a new computer, and have the cricital files transferred to it. New computers are so cheap these days that it doesn' take that much time before it's 'cheaper' to go new. And if you have access to somebody with an academic discount, so much the better.

I'd probably get jello, and who doesn't like jello?

German security forces don't like jello.

They call it "jelly", though.

By Johnny Vector (not verified) on 13 Oct 2006 #permalink

I'll share for the first time.
I'm Gerald, a recovering home computer builder.

I cab report a victory with the help of my higher power (Blind Luck). I was pricing components for a pc building project when I spotted a back to school promotion at one of the big box office supply stores:
Compaq desktop model 1920nx
here's a url for the detailed specs, this one has 512 meg ram.
They included a 17 inch crt style monitor.
Unfortunately it only includes WinXP Home.
The final cost after rebates, all received now, was $420.

I think they still have some of these boxes left and they cut the price another $20.

After uninstalling all the software demo's and tweaking windows for better security I was good to go.

LMAO. I had forgotten about the lime jello with the carrots and cabbage in it. This is a longstanding argument between Lynn and me that goes back to shortly after we met. Her father was a Methodist minister and I grew up in the Methodist church. I made a smartass comment about how the Methodists think that the 11th commandment is "thou shalt bring a dish to pass" - man, those people love their potlucks. And I commented that the one thing I hated most of all about the potlucks was that someone would always bring lime jello with carrots in it, which I regard as one of the more foul substances on earth. Well that was sacrilege to her, since she loves lime jello with carrots in it and she's sworn ever since that she's going to force me to eat it. Not gonna happen; I'm a lot bigger than she is, I'm an American and I've got rights, dammit.

That's really funny. It's been a long time since that subject came up. Ack. I still can't imagine how you eat that stuff.

Three words for you:




By carpundit (not verified) on 13 Oct 2006 #permalink

As was said early on in the thread,why would you do this to
yourself? Life is too short. Let some geek who knows what's what do the work for you. This doesn't involve your dick!

By Alan Coltharp (not verified) on 13 Oct 2006 #permalink